Use poetry to lead a lesson

As honorary convenor of the nine-day Poetic Licence Week (September 3–11) I’d like to invite all NSW government schools to join in the celebration.

The idea is simple. There is no funding on offer, so we are looking for ways to maximise participation, preferably at no cost, by asking all poets and poetry lovers to do something that will celebrate and/or promote the love of poetry.

Teachers could, for example, start one or two lessons with relevant poems. English teachers have a wide choice while history teachers could think about poems such as Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce et Decorum Est” or Alfred Tennyson’s “The Charge of the Light Brigade”. Carol Jenkins has written poems on scientific issues and Margaret Owen Ruckert has written about food and cooking. The range of topics covered by bush verse is surprisingly large.

Older primary students may appreciate William Blake’s “The Tyger” or John Ciardi’s “About the Teeth of Sharks”, and younger children often enjoy A.A. Milne’s “Now We are Six” or Mary Ann Hoberman’s “Growing”.

Students could choose poems to read or even to write. Concrete poems and haiku can work well as a starting point for writing.

Teacher-librarians could contribute by displaying poetry books, and the preparation of suitable posters may suit some art programs. Adventurous teachers might like to hold class or inter-class slam competitions (typing “slam” into a search engine will provide the rules.

I would not wish to ask anyone to disrupt teaching programs but even a few minutes spent sharing and enjoying poetry can be a valuable and worthwhile activity for all participants.

Norm Neill

Flogging off Long Bay Gaol

When I heard the Baird government was going to sell Malabar’s Long Bay Gaol and build a new prison to the south-west of Sydney, I immediately thought the Premier, being a practicing Christian, would have taken into consideration the welfare of the prisoners. Moving the prison to an outlying area with no public transport made me deeply concerned for prison visitors as they would be unable to visit as most relied on public transport.

But what is worse, the Baird government has also sacked 153 Gaol Education Officers, telling them they will have to apply for their jobs, of which there will only be 25 positions available. The remaining positions will be snapped up by voracious private providers. This is similar to the axe Baird took to TAFE by sacking 5000 staff teachers in favour of for-profit private providers.

Yet 85 per cent of prisoners have problems with literacy and numeracy skills. If these aren’t addressed in prison there is no way a prisoner would be able to get a job on discharge.

I cannot see how money-driven private providers would demonstrate the empathy and patience to teach prisoners. As a sacked TAFE teacher who once taught mature-age students with literacy and numeracy difficulties I know you need empathy and patience to help them grasp the basic fundamentals.

Mr Baird boasts his government has an excellent track record in providing infrastructure to meet population growth in Sydney, for example, the North West rail link and Eastern Suburbs light rail.

But Mr Baird didn’t want to build a larger tunnel, so the North West rail line is not compatible with the existing rolling stock. Consequently, commuters travelling from Castle Hill to the city will have to get off at Chatswood and catch another train to the city. Similarly, future light rail commuters travelling to Chifley from the city will have to get off at Kingsford and catch a bus.

If this is a shining example of Mike Baird’s major infrastructure planning, developers will be jumping with joy at getting their hands on this slice of valuable Malabar real estate. They will build 24-storey units like they threw up at Wolli Creek or the units opposite the Supa Centre at Moore Park. They will turn little Chifley village into a high-rise nightmare, delivering a death sentence to the locals.

Michael Feneley, the Liberal candidate for Kingsford Smith, has shown contempt for the residents of Chifley by saying that replacing the gaol with 24-storey high-rise structures is good for the area. He clearly shouldn’t be given a get-out-of-jail card.

Tony Morrissey